May 09, 2015 - 1:03 PM
WASHINGTON - An Alberta homeowner bursts out laughing at the idea that she could be living in a U.S. historical property, in the birth residence of a potential American president.
What's giving her the giggles? The thought of U.S. President Ted Cruz.
Baby Ted once crawled the hallways in her stucco-walled, Spanish-colonial-style Calgary home but she'll take a pass on owning a piece of American history, thanks very much.
"I don't think that he will be elected president," said Mary Eggermont-Molenaar, an author whose latest book is on the Dutch art collection of Sir William Van Horne.
"He is too extremist. I think the Americans will recognize that people with extremist backgrounds — that's not what the world needs."
The Canadian-born candidate is considered a long shot for the 2016 Republican nomination. However, he's laid out what he believes could be a path to victory: steer clear of the centre and make an uncompromising appeal to the conservative base.
If anyone has the credentials to try that, it's Cruz. His voting record is more consistently conservative than more than 99 per cent of anyone who's ever sat in the U.S. Senate, according to a metric devised by American political science professors.
Cruz's campaign confirmed that he began life in the northwest Calgary home, after being provided an image and the address by The Canadian Press. Eggermont-Molenaar has lived there since 1987 with her husband, a neuroscience professor.
They only learned about its past recently from an old Cruz family friend. Gillian Steward had befriended Cruz's parents in 1969, while the couple was working in the Alberta oil sector.
Steward visited the house a few weeks ago and it stirred old memories.
She recalled evenings when she was a young journalist, sharing drinks with her then-husband and the Cruzes. There were no big political debates — but lots of small-talk about work.
"I was the only person (there) who wasn't in the oil industry. So they would talk about work a lot, about this company, that company, who they were working with," said Steward, who went on to become the managing editor of the Calgary Herald.
"I don't remember getting into any big arguments."
She does recall Cruz's parents being polar opposites. They applied different personality types to work as a team, in the family business selling seismic data to the oil sector.
Cruz's mother, Eleanor Darragh, was reserved. She was also a cutting-edge computer whiz.
"She was the brains behind the outfit," Steward said.
Cruz's dad was the back-slapping, joke-telling salesman in the operation. She recalls him working potential customers in his favourite hangout — a Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar called Primos, next to the oil-industry towers.
It was the only Latin-American joint in town back then, she says. And Cuban-born Rafael Cruz was among the only local Latinos, which made for easy bonding with the folks at the resto-bar.
"I think he would do a lot of that (work) in the bar," Steward said. He was nicely dressed when drumming up business, she said — always in a suit or sports jacket.
The families lost touch within a couple of years, when they had babies.
Ted was born in December 1970. His family soon hit a rough patch.
In the speech launching his presidential bid, Cruz said his parents were drinking too much, arguing, and his dad bolted for Texas.
That's where the holy spirit touched Rafael Cruz — who's now a pastor.
"God transformed his heart. And he drove to the airport, he bought a plane ticket, and he flew back to (us in Calgary)," Cruz said.
"Were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ... I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household."
The family eventually returned to the U.S., and remained together until a final breakup in the 1990s. Cruz recently renounced his Canadian citizenship, and is eligible to run for president because his mom was born in the U.S.
His dad's a changed man today.
Steward was amazed to see online videos of her old friend. The shmoozing jokester of the Calgary cocktail bar now delivers sermons about how the theory of evolution is a communist plot to destroy faith in God and replace it with fealty to government.
"It was, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe that.... it's the same person,'" Steward said.
"I certainly don't remember any of that religiosity at all... It's totally different from how I remember him."
She's also struck by the irony of Cruz's birthplace. Steward is pretty sure the American conservative began life at the Foothills Medical Centre — a government-run, Canadian socialist hospital.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015